He had taken her there before.
A month before a terrified Kenner woman escaped Friday from a Mid-City apartment outfitted with trap doors, two-way mirrors and hidden cameras, Mario Perez Roque had held her there against her will for most of a day, the woman said Tuesday.
That time, she was able to run away, the woman said. But on Friday morning, bound and gagged and tied to a chair, she feared she would not be so fortunate.
“He’s not going to let me just get away this time,” the woman told herself as Perez, 56, rambled on about loathing his nickname, “Cuba,” after the country where he was born. “He’s going to do something.”
When she sensed a brief opportunity for freedom, the 36-year-old native of Guatemala said she was able to break through her bonds and escape outside.
The woman, whom The New Orleans Advocate is not identifying, still has swollen, scraped wrists and scratch marks around her neck from her ordeal. But authorities said she was able to provide them with enough information about her captor to lead to Perez’s arrest, and to open a window on a man with a long history of violence and mental illness.
A second suspect believed to have aided Perez in the kidnapping was still at large Tuesday, a prospect that has left the woman living in terror.
The woman said in Spanish that she knew Perez through work, where he was her supervisor at their job of cleaning the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Perez would offer her rides to and from her Kenner apartment, she said, and eventually he began making advances.
The woman said she would remind him that she had a boyfriend and two children, but he persisted. Sometime in October, she said, he tricked her into going to his apartment in the back of a double shotgun home owned by his brother in the 100 block of North Lopez Street in Mid-City.
All through the night and into the next day, the woman said, Perez kept her there against her will.
“What do you want? Are you going to rape me?” she asked him. He did not say yes, but he did not say no, she said.
Finally, the slightly built, 5-foot-tall woman fought Perez for her freedom and escaped onto the street. Two passing Hispanic men helped her and encouraged her to go to the police, but she was afraid to do so.
Perez pressured the woman not to tell anyone what had happened. He promised her he would attend church and get better. Feeling left with no other option, she believed him.
When he kidnapped the woman Friday, police believe, Perez substituted force for guile. He and another man allegedly forced the victim into a black Mercury Mountaineer at gunpoint and drove her back to the Mid-City house after putting a bag over her head.
Facebook photographs Perez posted show a black Mercury Mountaineer — the same vehicle believed to have been used in the kidnapping — parked next to the double shotgun.
The woman said she does not know the identity of the second suspect.
Relatives and friends keep her under constant guard, but she remains scared and feels exposed, in part because she has not gotten her cellphone back since her abduction.
On Tuesday, two people who knew Perez but didn’t want to be named said he came to the United States during the Mariel boatlift in 1980. He has since been accused of repeated serious crimes — including two attempted-murder arrests in 1985 and 2005 — and was once held under a mental commitment order in East Feliciana Parish for 19 months.
Perez was arrested on sexual assault, kidnapping and attempted-murder charges in Newark, New Jersey, in 1985, court records show. He was eventually convicted of kidnapping and attempted murder and sentenced to 29 years. The New Jersey Department of Corrections could not immediately say when he was released or under what conditions. But Jefferson Parish court records show that he first showed up on authorities’ radar here when he was arrested on a charge of stealing from a Wal-Mart in May 2004.
Then, two days before Hurricane Katrina struck the area in 2005, Perez was booked on attempted second-degree murder and the illegal use of a firearm outside a house in Kenner where he was renting a room.
On Tuesday, three witnesses to the 2005 incident said it began because Perez was mad at a man with whom his girlfriend was cheating. Perez threatened to “spill the brains” of both his girlfriend and her paramour “if they didn’t stop fooling around in front of him,” police said. He then shot the other man in the right temple and the arm before the gun jammed, police wrote in a report.
Despite being shot in the head, police said, the victim survived and stabbed Perez under the left armpit with a kitchen knife.
After Perez was arrested, the witnesses said, they discovered that he had set up hidden video cameras overseeing his room and the path leading up to it. The witnesses figured that’s how he knew his girlfriend was cheating on him.
They also discovered he had ropes, chains and other materials with which to tie people up in his room. They had no idea why he had those objects or what he would do with them, they said.
“We never saw Mario again,” one witness said of Perez. “We were always terrified that he would come back.”
Two men and two women eventually received restraining orders against Perez, police said. Prosecutors then dropped the initial charges against him in January 2006 in favor of a single count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Witnesses said that was because the man Perez shot had left the area.
Then, in June 2006, Perez’s attorney filed a motion with the court for a sanity commission, stating that his client “appears mentally incoherent.”
In August 2006, 24th Judicial District Judge June Berry Darensburg found Perez mentally incompetent. She remanded him to the state mental health hospital in East Feliciana Parish until his competence could be restored.
Perez was still there in August 2007, when he penned a handwritten letter to the judge. “I like to know how long they can hold me,” Perez wrote with the help of a fellow inmate serving as an unofficial English translator. “They been dragging this on to long.”
Finally, in January 2008, Perez was found competent. In May of that year, however, the court record noted that he was on suicide watch in the Jefferson Parish jail.
Perez pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a weapon by a felon in May 2009. A judge ordered him to stay away from three Kenner residents and one New Orleans resident. He was sentenced to four years and two months.
The punishment wasn’t enough for one of the witnesses in the case to feel safe again, so she moved to the western United States and hasn’t been back, she said.
Perez was released on “good time” parole supervision the same month that he pleaded guilty, having served most of his sentence. His term of supervision ended in January 2010.
Some time after that, Perez moved to his Mid-City apartment in New Orleans.
Days after his arrest, a sketch with his signature on it was still hanging on the wall in a laundry room in the back of the building. It showed a skull leering at a woman.